Karel Rachunek and Michael Nylander each scored a power-play goal and added an assist for the Rangers in a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. The Rangers scored three power-play goals in their third consecutive victory and are three points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. "It's only three games," said New York captain Jaromir Jagr, who had an assist. "We need to win 20 more games. We've got 17 to go to make the playoffs."
The power play has been the key in New York's last two wins. They've scored six goals in the last two games, including a 3-for-3 effort Thursday with Rachunek, Nylander and Brendan Shanahan scoring. Rachunek's power-play goal at 5:40 in the second period turned out to be the winner.
A shakeup in the special teams has spurred the scoring streak. Instead of keeping stars Jagr and Shanahan together, the Rangers have split them up.
"With two groups, more players are involved and we've been scoring and creating momentum," Rangers winger Matt Cullen said.
The Hurricanes never generated any momentum. Andrew Ladd scored the only goal for the short-handed lineup. Carolina lost all-star winger Justin Williams midway through the second period with what the team called an upper-body injury. Defenceman Bret Hedican also left the game in the second period with a concussion. The Hurricanes were already missing forwards Cory Stillman, who's expected to miss 10 days with a sprained knee, and Erik Cole, who missed his third straight game with a hip pointer.
"Regardless of who's in and who's out, the expectation is we have to win," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "That hasn't changed all year.
"We haven't been healthy all year, there's no sense talking about, there's no sense crying about it."
The Rangers have added to their lineup through trades for the playoff push. Pascal Dupuis and Sean Avery both played a part in Thursday's victory, the Rangers' first at Carolina in six games.
Avery, acquired in a trade with Los Angeles on Feb. 5, had two assists. Dupuis, making his Rangers debut after being traded from Minnesota on Feb. 9, made it 3-1 with at 16:19 in the second. Cullen hit the cutting Dupuis in front of the net.
"I think we may have found a formula," New York coach Tom Renney said. "We made some roster moves and possibly created some more depth."
Cullen, who was a part of the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup team last season, knows there isn't much room for error in the final weeks of the season.
"If we're not playing good now, our season's pretty much over," Cullen said. "This is our playoffs.
"If we don't win these games, we're done."
Notes: It was the Rangers' first win at Carolina since Dec. 31, 2002 . . . Jagr celebrated his 35th birthday with his team-leading 49th assist . . . The Hurricanes are 1-3-1 in their past five home games.